Consider what you have potentially been engaging in over the past twelve days.
Humbling your heart to:
1. Set aside time to engage in a spiritual fast by developing a journaling habit.
2. Become more concerned about your water consumption than food consumption.
3. Exclude junk food and sugar from your diet to increase your ability to concentrate.
4. Quit complaining and develop a habit of giving thanks.
5. Learn how to write and pray a life-changing decree and "Thy Kingdom come" prayer.
6. Abstain from food for a meal a day to spend more time with Jesus.
7. Practice a Daniel Fast of eating only fruits and vegetables to be more alert to Christ.
8. Listen more carefully to Jesus’ speaking to you from His Word by completing the phrase, "Jesus, You love me so much that You …”
9. Confess sins and repent.
No doubt none of this has been easy, as it has surely required you to stretch outside your normal comfort zone and engage in practices beyond your usual pattern of living.
Yesterday, we began working on the tenth aspect of a fast. Like every other practice, the goal has been to listen to Jesus more clearly, so He can transform us more thoroughly at every level of our lives.
The practice introduced yesterday is no doubt the most emotionally-challenging of anything we would abstain from. The thought of turning off, slowing down, and making quiet the digital noise in our world will not stand down without a fight.
I have met with so many pastors and business people who want to talk to me about their vision and their strategic plans. I am always surprised, not by their vision nor their plan, but by their focus. In 95% of the cases, the push is to "get big." In 95% of the cases, the vision and strategic plan were developed apart from a season of fasting and attuning their ears to the voice of God.
When the goal is to "get bigger”—I can say this from experience—we will run over whomever we need to in the name of the divine vision we received. The damage we do others in the process can be excused because we have a vision from God, and our vision to "get bigger" will be so important that "others" can be easily ignored.
For the “bigger," I have seen people discard old relationships, lose intimate contact with family, and use other groups or businesses to advance their own cause, without concern for what it might do to the person or another group. To make a decision to "get bigger," without being aware of or acknowledging the sacrifices of others, can be damaging in so many ways. The decision to "get bigger" is often connected to money-gathering schemes that are less than God-honoring. The decision to "get bigger" always separates company with ethics and values born in Christ's heart.
If personal growth comes at the expense or the harm or the improper use of another, then "getting bigger" or "getting more" was merely a human vision and strategy.
A digital or a media fast is so essential for allowing much needed time for you to contemplate and hear from God.
No doubt Jesus wants to prosper you, multiply you, and make you fruitful. This is what He put you on the planet to do. He does not want you to do so at the expense of others. Not only abstaining from food but also from media can really slow us down and make us warm fertile soil for the seed of God's word. During a Media Fast you might be able to slow down enough in your mind to really listen. To take a few days to say, "I am not going to concentrate on advancing my cause, but I am going to concentrate on Jesus," and His cause might just allow you to see things you have never seen.
Oddly, the media and digital world possess two subtle powers: first, to make someone self-focused, and second, to make them want to "get bigger."
From Bigger to Greater
It's a bit like reading books on leadership—seldom will you find one that does not focus on making the leader bigger, better, the best s/he can be.
The practice of Jesus is such a reversal to all of that kind of thinking (Matthew 19:30; 20:16; Mark 9:35; Luke 11:30; 13:30). Jesus builds a great leader by training the leader not to concentrate on how to become bigger, better, and best. Jesus builds great leaders who concentrate on making others bigger, better, and best. People who accomplish the eternal build things that outlast time, and they are not focused on "getting bigger" but on making others bigger.
I believe I will be the best pastor I could ever become not by concentrating on my becoming bigger, better, or best at anything, but by answering the questions: “How can I make others the best they can be? How can I make other churches the best they can be?" Most of all, I will become the best person possible if my life is focused on Jesus’ getting the attention and honor.
For some reason, media is designed to bring a person back to oneself and to the question, “How can I become greater?” Actually, it can even be worse and bring us to the question, “Look at what a loser I am, so what do I need to do to look like them?”
To really burrow down to what Jesus thinks by taking a break from media may do more than we could ever imagine. It could be a critical moment where we turn our sensitivity away from who we are not but wish we could be, toward humbly listening to Jesus so we can accomplish not the "bigger" thing but the truly "greater" thing (John 14:12).
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Matthew 5:29 TNIV
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:2 The Message
You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and His way. James 4:4 The Message
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:16 CSB
Matthew 5:29 TNIV
Jesus did not dabble in complexity but instead stated the issue clearly so no one could mistake His meaning. If your eye becomes so obsessed with something, with having something, with making something bigger, then cut out your vision for that thing.
Then Jesus made a stark claim that an eye obsessed with some object could throw an entire life off course and set its destiny for hell. Of course no one believed this, but Jesus declared it a possibility.
I remember a young man feeling called to become a pastor. No doubt he possessed both the skill and the spirit of a person so called. He told his dad, who then came to me a bit enraged. He didn't mind if his son one day became a pastor, but first he wanted his son to earn a degree in another field, build his profession, and then if he wanted to pastor he could. His son is in a different field right now with a ton of money and a huge business, but he secretly admits he made the wrong decision. Oddly, he can't change his decision because, like his father, his eye was on the wrong goal.
Romans 12:2 The Message
Paul clearly tells followers not to be conformed to the cultural practices, habits, and addictions of their culture. Instead, followers were to be changed from the inside by focusing their attention on God. No heart should ever be shaped by the media they view but by the God they worship. It’s frightening: everyone is shaped by the god they worship.
James 4:4 The Message
James stated that when a person cheated on God through a compulsion for something else, that person was at the same time taking up arms as an enemy combatant against God. To imagine we could flirt with the world through the media is not cute or harmless. Seeking to play in it while at the same time remaining on good terms with God is impossible, according to James. Eventually our hostility will seep out against God.
Revelation 3:16 CSB
Revelation speaks of being in the condition of wanting Jesus but having compulsions in our lives for other things. Jesus labels such a condition lukewarm—not hot, not cold, just nauseating.
The digital world has such a great power in our lives to corrupt faith, hope, and love. It subtly turns our focus on us and what we want. It can become a compulsive force, and, in many people, it has already done its damage. No doubt a fearless appraisal of this part of our lives could prove enormously liberating.
The truth is the digital world can be just another breeding ground for human addictions. As we consider entering a Digital Fast, it might be wise to take a moment to assess our own hearts and lifestyles. Ask the question, “Has the digital world I participate in created a foothold for some addiction?”
A Huffington Post Article breaks digital addiction into five categories:
a) device addiction (i.e., computer game addiction)
b) information overload (i.e., web-surfing addiction)
c) net compulsions (i.e., online gambling or online shopping addiction)
d) cybersexual addiction (i.e., online pornography or online sex addiction)
e) cyber-relationship addiction (i.e., an addiction to online relationships)
The article goes on to state that the average human talks about him/herself thirty to forty percent of the time. On social media networks, they talk about themselves eighty percent of the time.
For many, a digital compulsion is more gripping than a food compulsion.
To disengage for seven days, for some, will require a miracle. No matter how gripping the digital world is, I wish to encourage everyone to begin to wade into this discipline tomorrow and over the next seven days. See if Jesus will not heal, restore, and reset your lives in ways you have not imagined.
Consider your life—instead of being obsessed with making yourself bigger, become Holy Spirit graced to do the "greater." Such humility will take you places you cannot believe (Luke 14:11; 18:14; 1 Peter 5:6).
Daily Journal Thoughts
On your "Prayer and Fasting Commitments” page, write down the date.
Next, write your commitment; it might be worded something like this:
“Tomorrow I begin my seven-day Digital and Media Fast. Father, reveal to me every way it has become compulsive or addictive in my life, and then, by Your grace, heal, restore, and retune my life to be centered around You.”
Finally, go to your "Daily Journal," and write the date at the top of the page.
Using the five categories listed in Huffington Post, let Jesus begin to talk to you about your habits of digital use and how serious each may be.
You might not think the following important but you should do it no matter how free you imagine yourself. Jesus could prompt your mind to know just how needy you are of Him in this area, even if you feel totally free today.
You could begin by writing down something like this:
“Jesus, You love me so much You want to free me from every digital compulsion or addiction, so today I am asking you to reveal to me my heart.”
“Jesus, it seems that You would want to say about my digital game use that I …”
“Jesus, it seems that You would want to say about my digital surfing and video clicking habits that I …”
“Jesus, it seems that You would want to say about my digital shopping and/or gambling habits that I …”
“Jesus, it seems that You would want to say about my digital cybersexual activity that I ...“
“Jesus, it seems that You would want to say about my digital cyber-relationship activity that I …"